Since the passing of rap star and now icon Nipsey Hussle, the Black community has faced heartbreak after heartbreak with passing death of famous and non-famous Black men. Most recently, Chadwick Boseman, who starred in the role of the Black Panther. The Black Panther is the first Black Superhero and has been celebrated greatly in the Black community and serves as inspiration for many children and grown-ups alike. The death of Boseman comes 7 months after the death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and after a slew of black men and women dying at the hands of law enforcement. With all this pain and heartbreak, what is the future of Black People?
I am not much of a conspiracy theorist rather a man of deep faith and I pray often to understand the matters of the world and I seek solutions to overcome those problems. I’ve thought much about the 60s when the Black community lost Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King in the same decade—all three men were working for the advancement of Black people in America and were assassinated because of their mission. These were great losses to the movement and the spirit of the black community. I see the same feeling arising with the loss of Nipsey Hussle, Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman. Each death stripped the Black community of its power and spirit. And while their life’s work will live on, from here-on-out, every day for the rest of our lives we will be remembering their untimely passing and what else could have come from these great men if they were still alive.
I remember covering the music of Nipsey when I was a college radio personality and I saw his rise and progress to becoming one of the more recognizable voices in Hip Hop; gaining the respect of the likes of Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Diddy. Hussle’s rise was public and an inspiration for those who were striving for success in their personal lives and those who have an entrepreneur’s spirit. Nipsey Hussle led the pack for young black entrepreneurs and a community of young Black men and women who learned early on they had to do it for themselves in order succeed. Hussle’s Grammy award winning album, Victory Lap, was the culmination of years of hard work including a well-documented police raid that cost him his personal studio and equipment. His life is a blueprint for Black success; yet like Chadwick Boseman and Kobe Bryant, he was just getting started before his life was cut short.
Kobe Bryant won 5 NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and retired with a vision to transition into the business world like former Laker Magic Johnson. He established the media company Granity Studios which published several books and created the Academy award winning short film, Dear Basketball. The father of 4 remained in the spotlight post-retirement inspiring players in the NBA and WNBA to reach their fullest potential on and off the court. His #MambaMentality became a lifestyle and teaching for those seeking to overcome the obstacles of everyday life. His untimely death not only brought a strain to the sports world but to those who use sports as fuel for everyday life.
When I was a child, I remember owning a Superman trucker hat and dreaming to be like Superman. When I began to encounter discrimination and bullying for being Haitian, I no longer felt like a superhero, I began to feel like a villain. I couldn’t defend my identity because there was no-one popular enough that I could identify as myself; Superman had white skin, silky hair and blue eyes and I did not. My only option was to accept the villain role; even though Lex Luthor was white himself, he wasn’t favored and I could identify with that story. With age, I saw the idea and feeling that formed in me as a child was also prevalent in rap culture. On the song Dead Presidents II, Jay-Z raps, “I’ll tell you half the story, the rest, you fill it in, long as the villain wins” and I connected to the line because it was the story I wanted to see. On a deeper level, it wasn’t the villain I wanted to win, rather the Black person. Many black men and boys are vilified so much they begin to accept the role of being bad as a way of survival. I suspect that pattern would continue had Chadwick Boseman not become the Black Panther. He gave Black kids, a hero that looked like them and one they could pretend to be when the world was against them. His work brought comfort and healed many who spent their whole lives under-represented, ignored, or vilified by people who could not understand them.
The passing of Chadwick Boseman at the age of 43 years old to colon cancer may be another death to some people but I believe it is equivalent to losing civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boseman was the black superhero that fought evil for his people in Wakanda like Dr. King fought the evil of racism in the sixties for Black people in America. While the character of King T’Challa is fictional and Dr. King fought real world racism, the inspiration that comes from the Black Panther is important in forming the Black identity and overcoming real life obstacles and racism that Black men and boys are bound to experience because of a lack of adequate representation. Because of his works as the Black Panther and his roles as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, Boseman will serve as inspiration for many Black men and boys as they develop their identities and establish their self-esteem; they will be inclined to feel good because they saw themselves on the big screen.
With the state of the country and the political divide, I suspect it will take greater effort on the part of the Black community to groom its next batch of heroes. As we failed to learn from previous generations, our heroes and those destined for great work are usually cut down in their prime. As a people still healing and grieving from the constant killings of our brothers and sister we must build our people with stronger spirits, bodies, minds and enduring faith so that they may last the test of time. There is a great evil hovering over the black community and we must protect our people more than ever or our future will not be one of progress but one of constant rebuilding. Of course, there are other Black activist, rappers, athletes and actors that will inspire and motive us to greater heights – there is always a next person. However, the ones we lost were one of ones and held an important place in our hearts and spirits and we will spend the rest of our lives remembering their life as we combat other issues and obstacles in our lives. The future of Black people must be one of determination and elevation like the men mentioned in this piece. There’s a call for increased Black entrepreneurship through Nipsey Hussle, a call to support and encourage women through Kobe Bryant and a call to be Superheroes instead of villains through Chadwick Boseman and the way to honor their lives is to answer one or more of those calls.